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The Houston Methodist hospital system in Texas has suspended 178 employees for failing to meet a deadline to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – a policy that prompted more than 100 employees to file lawsuits against the hospital. Employees now have to be vaccinated by June 21st, or face fired.
The stalemate is one of the most prominent examples of how employers’ desire to have their workers fully vaccinated is put to the test by the deep vaccination reluctance of some workers – and in this case the dispute takes place within the health system.
The Houston Methodist staff who refused to be vaccinated say the vaccines are unsafe and even “experimental”. In response, the hospital notes that Hundreds of millions of vaccine doses safely administered following a review process that included three rounds of clinical trials.
More than 600 employees received exceptions or deferrals
The nearly 200 employees who missed the hospital’s vaccination deadline are now suspended without pay. The group, which includes both full-time and part-time workers, was given 14 days to adhere to or they could lose their jobs.
Holdouts include 27 workers who have already received a vaccine dose; According to Dr. Marc Boom, the President and CEO of Houston Methodist, they could complete the cure by the next deadline.
“I’m confident they will get their second dose soon,” Boom said in an email sent to employees earlier this week. In addition, he said more than 600 employees have been granted exemptions or deferrals from compulsory vaccination.
The 117 employees who filed lawsuits represent a small fraction of the Houston Methodist’s approximately 26,000 employees, Boom said.
What the employees who are hesitant to vaccinate say
Houston Methodist staff who defied the policy find that Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead, they are managed by an emergency use authorization.
But some of the vaccines are now for full approval, and since it was first introduced, its use has been approved by more and more segments of the population as health professionals rate its side effects and symptoms as negligible – especially when compared to the potential risks posed by COVID-19. The disease has caused more than 3.7 million deaths worldwide, and some of those infected with the coronavirus have long-term debilitating effects.
“We just want more time,” says Houston Methodist nurse Jennifer Bridges said recently the reluctance of employees to get the vaccine. “We want it to be fully FDA cleared, and we want more real research before I can put it in my body.”
In an interview with NPR’s Now here, Bridges also said that even if the FDA gave the vaccines full approval, it would still remain clear.
“There are no long-term data,” she said. “Even if they approve it now, there is still nothing to say that could possibly happen two, three, four years later.”
Hospital responds to allegations from employees
Boom disagrees with Bridges, saying her vaccine safety concerns appear to be based on misinformation.
“This is anti-vaccination rhetoric, and unfortunately [it’s] on duty with a doctor, “said Boom Now here after some of its employees filed a lawsuit about the need for vaccines.
Bridges also claimed that doctors were deterred from reporting patient side effects to the vaccines – a claim Boom dismissed as “utter nonsense and quite frankly, quite offensive.”
Bridges is the lead plaintiff in the employee lawsuit cited by Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney and conservative activist who once led the Harris County Republican Party.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently clarified that employers have the legal right to request COVID-19 vaccinations for people who work on site. The rule mirrors existing guidelines for other vaccines such as the flu shot.
Some employers have made vaccinations mandatory for their employees; others cling to incentives and rewards designed to encourage reluctant employees to roll up their sleeves. Houston Methodist is among them after offering $ 500 bonuses to vaccinated workers at the beginning of the year. The hospital chain later made vaccinations mandatory.
Vaccination rates drop from heights
The US has now given more than 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 141 million people are according to the latest data from. fully vaccinated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the first vaccines were made available to the public in December, more than 50% of the eligible US population (12 years and older) have been fully vaccinated.
Like many southern states, Texas has lagged behind other regions in delivering vaccine doses per capita. But in the south, Texas is only behind Florida and Virginia in this metric. In Harris County, which includes Houston, more than 56% of the eligible population has reportedly received at least one dose of vaccine Country health data.
Across the country, many communities are full of optimism about a return to a more normal summer, although the effects of the pandemic can still be felt and mourned. COVID-19 has killed nearly 600,000 people in the U.S. and more than 33 million cases have been reported, the CDC says.
The US is pushing to vaccinate a large section of the public peaked in April; since then, the latest 7-day averages have been roughly at the level of the last rates recorded at the beginning of January (excluding weekends and public holidays).
Some are firmly entrenched in reluctance to take vaccines
The arrival and widespread availability of three COVID-19 vaccines are credited with helping lower hospital stays and death rates in the U.S., where the national rate of new cases has fallen to levels since the early weeks of the pandemic was no longer seen.
However, much of the US public has shown no willingness to receive any of the new COVID-19 vaccines.
Last month, 73% of adults in the United States said they either had or are planning to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to one NPR / PBS News hour/ Marist survey. But that left about a quarter of American adults who said they wouldn’t get vaccinated.
These numbers are only marginally better than expectations formed when the first vaccines headed for federal approval. Late last year, a Gallup poll found only 63% of Americans said They would be willing to get vaccinated against the disease if an FDA cleared vaccine were available.